Thursday, October 10, 2019

Miami-Dade County Accelerates Climate Progress with Largest Electric Bus Order on the East Coast

Last week, Miami-Dade County Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of 33 battery-electric, zero emission buses from the manufacturer Proterra, the largest purchase of zero emission buses in the the East Coast.This is the first substantial step made towards achieving the County’s commitment to a 50% battery-electric, zero emission fleet by 2035 since the commitment was made exactly one year prior and is the result of tireless advocacy from environmental and transit advocates.

“Florida is one of the most vulnerable areas in the country to climate change, and Miami is working tirelessly to lower its greenhouse gas emissions,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez. “Deploying battery-electric buses is one of the best actions we can take to improve our environment and our community’s public health. We are looking forward to working with Proterra to deliver clean, quiet transportation to Miami-Dade.” Special thanks to Mayor Giménez, Commissioner Levine-Cava, and Commissioner Suarez for their work over the last several years to make this purchase a reality, and thank you to all the County Commissioners for their unanimous vote.
Advocates at Miami-Dade County Commission 10/3/19. 

Sierra Club volunteers joined with Transit Alliance Miami, Miami Climate Alliance, and CATALYST Miami members in calling for the approval of the purchase and a critical shift to an all electric fleet. Sierra Club advocates have been asking Miami-Dade County Commissioners to transition to an all electric fleets for years and were thrilled that Commissioners allocated more than 70 million dollars to fund up to 75 battery-electric buses should the Transit Department choose to order more.

“This is a technology that over the last several years seems to have evolved...We want to get our feet wet with zero emission,” said Transit Director Alice Bravo.  Over the lifetime of a zero emission bus, transit agencies in Florida save between 70 and 79% in maintenance and repair costs compared to a bus fueled by Compressed Natural Gas, known as “CNG” or fracked gas. The total cost of ownership of a zero emission bus is also $700,000 less than the total cost of a diesel-hybrid bus. Miami-Dade County’s fleet is over 800 buses, primarily made up of CNG and diesel-hybrid buses.  Each of the zero emission buses will save Miami-Dade County between $150,000 and $200,000 over their lifetime in fuel, maintenance and repair costs.

As the 13th largest fleet in the nation, Miami-Dade County’s transition to an electric fleet has been part of a broader shift in the industry. “The technology is here, countless U.S. cities have moved to electric fleets, the cost savings and health benefits are significant, and these are absolutely critical as we move to position our County and region as a global leader within the emerging multi-billion dollar resilience economy. Now’s the time," said David McDougal of the Miami Climate Alliance. Although more than five transit agencies in Florida have made commitments to purchase over 400 zero emission buses collectively, only six zero emission buses currently operate in the Sunshine State. Directly to the north of Miami-Dade, Broward County committed last December to achieve a 100% electric fleet by 2030 and has ordered 15 buses to arrive immediately.

The replacement of diesel buses on the road has massive climate and public health benefits, eliminating 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide, 10 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 350 pounds of diesel particulate matter from being emitted. Cleaning up public transportation is an environmental justice issue. Zelalem Adefris, Resilience Director at CATALYST Miami urged Commissioners to take into account which communities and demographics are most vulnerable to air pollution when deploying the buses. “I want to emphasize that when we do get these buses hopefully the locations of the routes will be determined by the disproportionate asthma risk among youth throughout the county who really need cleaner air first in their neighborhoods, because we do have disproportionate access to clean air throughout the County,” she said to County Commissioners.

In addition to reducing air pollution, zero emission buses also reduce the emission of climate-disrupting greenhouse gases. The source of the electricity used to charge zero emission buses is the most important factor in determining their carbon footprint as there are no greenhouse gases or pollutants emitted from driving battery-electric buses, hence the term “zero emission.”
Advocates demand a 50% electric fleet on 10/3/18.

Even with a dirty fuel mix generating Florida’s electricity, choosing battery-electric buses reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to a bus fueled by fracked gas, a battery-electric bus that draws electricity from the grid will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% over its lifetime. And going all electric matters; compared to a diesel-electric hybrid bus, a battery-electric bus will reduce emissions by 50% over the lifetime of the bus, a percentage that will increase over the service life of the bus as Florida Power & Light increases the percentage of solar power in its portfolio.

In a nutshell, every bus in the Miami-Dade County fleet that is replaced by an electric bus reduces transit emissions by 50% or more, and transit costs by $150,000 or more, compared to the vehicle it is replacing. If the County chooses to add off-grid solar to charge their buses, a full fleet of electric buses could completely eliminate Miami-Dade County government’s transportation emissions.
Nora Viñas speaks to Commissioners 10/3/19.

In addition to a cleaner transit system, the shift towards electric buses also marks an important milestone in the development of a more effective system.“As we embark on the first comprehensive bus redesign in the past 30 years, it is important that we continually invest in the renewal of our fleet and meet the highest standard...electric buses,” said Nora Viñas on behalf of Transit Alliance Miami. “Frequent and reliable transportation has the potential to unlock opportunities for our residents all over the county. The purchase of the electric bus fleet has the potential to build ridership on buses that are efficient for our environment. The Better Bus project is part of the Resilient 305 initiative and as part of that strategy our goal is to advocate for a bus redesign that supports our County’s commitment to a 50% zero emission, battery-electric fleet.”

The Better Bus Project is a grassroots initiative to redesign the Miami-Dade bus system for greater efficiency, access and equity. Born from a massive data collection and research effort, the Better Bus Project has brought together world-class transit system designers, county officials and thousands of residents to create a better bus system. You can support electric transit for all of Miami-Dade County by joining Sierra Club, Transit Alliance Miami, Miami Climate Alliance and others on the Better Bus Project. Residents and stakeholders; please take the concept survey here before November 1st and follow Transit Alliance Miami, Miami Climate Alliance and Sierra Club Miami Group social media handles to stay up to date!